To those who periodically claim that 'the Americans don't have a sense of irony', I always point them in the direction of Seinfeld, Cheers and many other TV comedies to demonstrate just what complete cobblers they are talking. OK, in a country with a population of 319 million people compared to oh-so-ironic Old Blighty's mere 64 million – that's almost five times as many Yanks as Brits – there are bound to be more than a few po-faced individuals who think 'irony' is the 'science of ironing' than here – almost five times as many, probably - but then we in Britain also have our fair share (and I have worked for a few).
Well, if that claim yet again raises its ugly head in my company, I shall advise the claimant to seek out and watch all ten episodes of Search Party. It is, in more than one way, quite a little gem.
The premise at the heart of the deal is the same as in Seinfeld: take four utterly self-obsessed narcissistic 'millennials' (I'm rather too old to qualify, so I give it a set of ironic quote marks) and follow their lives and sometimes lies. Then throw in a real mystery – the disappearance of a classmate they barely knew and didn't much like but whose fate becomes yet another burden they must bear, sob, sob – and you have a story which fills ten episodes very satisfyingly indeed. (NB They are just 20 minutes long here in Britain because we have been saved ten minutes of crass ads which tend to ruin most programmes.) The performances by the four main characters are so good, funny and entertaining, that the actors deserve an individual mention: Alia Shawkat, John Reynolds, Meredith Hanger and John Early. Alia plays the girl with no life (her daily occupation is to assist for no pay in the most inane way possible a rich New York divorcée who has time on her hands to kill). Her boyfriend is John Reynolds, an unpaid intern. Meredith Hagner (a real hoot) is a small-part TV actress, and John Early is their outrageously camp gay who manages to pull of the difficult trick of not making his gay character into a caricature: he's the real deal and wins you over despite his behaviour.
That the writers are aware shows in their inclusion of one or two characters, mainly older ones, who are far more grounded and not quite as self-obsessed.
It would be pointless to give a blow-by-blow rendition of the plot, but I should add that it is not just a dramatic device to show us the lives of our four egoists. I shall certainly keep an eye out for the future work of the four, as their work in Search Party can by no means be a one-off. Give this a whirl: if you don't like it, don't think it's funny, think it is nothing special, my advice is to seek out the local branch of your Po-faced Citizens Of America and take out a life membership.